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Night Driving – how to stay safe on the road when it’s dark outside

  Friday, 27 January 2017

Car passenger's view driving at night

Night driving is a unique skill and one that takes some getting used to for even the most confident daytime drivers.  With that in mind, we thought it’d be a good idea to go through some of the most effective techniques and tips for taking to the road once the sun’s gone down.

Ensure your windscreen is clean

This isn’t a technique as such, but it’s still important to the safety of you, your passengers and other road users.  At night, you’ll need to make sure that nothing hinders your vision.  Any kind of windscreen dust or dirt will limit how well you can see and make the darkness outside seem even darker.  Annoyingly, i will also make any oncoming headlights seem brighter.  Don’t forget to give your windscreen a quick clean before you head out at night.

Keep your headlights in tip-top condition

You should make sure that your headlights are clean and aligned correctly: they should be slightly pointing down, away from any other road users.  You should also ensure that they’re fully functional on all three settings - side, dipped, and main.  Your headlights are perhaps the most important factor when it comes to keeping you safe at night and by not maintaining them you’re creating unnecessary risk for yourself.

Slow down

When visibility is lower – as it inevitably is when dark - hazards become much more difficult to spot and your reaction time is much lower as a result.  Try to ensure that you keep to sensible speeds when the sun goes down: if you’re driving on an unlit road, you should avoid going above any speed that won’t allow you to stop within the stretch of road that your headlights cover.

Avoid being dazzled

Unfortunately, there will always be drivers who neglect to turn their headlights down.  If you can see one of these vehicles coming towards you, try to look slightly to the left of the road: a few seconds of exposure to bright headlights can affect your visibility for several minutes, cutting down your reaction time.  If you’re being dazzled by a car behind you, take the time to adjust your rear view mirror and get those bright lights out of your eye-line.

It’s also important to remember that your brake lights can create dazzle for other motorists: if you’re waiting at a junction or queuing in traffic, try to use your brake pedal as little as possible.

Don’t smoke

The smoke from cigarettes creates a sort of film on the windscreen that can heavily affect your visibility.  Again, the aim at night is to be able to see the road as clearly as possible, and cigarette smoke doesn’t help one bit.

Avoid using your interior lights unless you really need to

Though they can be useful when rummaging around in the car, you should always keep your inside lights off where possible.  This way, you’ll be able to avoid interior reflections on your windows that’ll stop you seeing outside.

Use your lights when overtaking

Overtaking at night can be a risky business.  Unless you’re on a motorway or any other well-lit road, you’re going to have a limited view ahead of the car you’re overtaking.  It’s important to avoid any kind of risky overtake, and to be absolutely certain that the road ahead is clear before you decide to manoeuvre.  Once you’ve drawn level with the vehicle you’re overtaking, quickly switch headlights to full beam in order to fully illuminate the road ahead (as long as there are no vehicles ahead of you, of course).

If another driver is overtaking you, then keep your headlights on full beam until they’re level, as this extra light can help them perform the manoeuvre safely.  Once they’ve pulled past, return your headlights to dip.

Get lots of rest

Driving at night can become very dangerous if you’re not fully rested.  If you’re feeling sleepy behind the wheel - or even just a bit weary - then find a safe and convenient place to stop.  Driving at night simply requires more concentration, so it is natural that you’ll get tired more easily.  Give yourself time to grab a chocolate bar and a coffee, and hit the road again once you’ve woken up.  Don’t take risks with night time driving: doing so can be fatal.

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